A soldier is engineered for blood and war. He is programmed for the battlefield but what is going to happen with him when he returns to society? He might turn into a monster or a killing beast. He might not harm others, but he might harm himself. Martin Scorsese’s Taxi Driver written by Paul Schrader was among the first in a lot of films that chronicled such subject matter. A marine who came back from the Vietnam War is now looking for his existence in the society where he is lonely. Clint Eastwood’s American Sniper runs on the same theme, except, the sniper kills himself rather than harming anyone else. The protagonist of The Beast (Italian: La Belva film) is terrified of the same chaos around him and therefore tries his best to push people away, so he doesn’t end up hurting his closed ones or any human being.
The Beast (La Belva film) directed by Ludovico Di Martino is an Italian film focused primarily on its protagonist, Leonida Riva (Fabrizio Gifuni). The film runs fast and even the slow emotional moments are filled with amped background music, thus, keeping the attention grabbed.
Leonida Riva, a war veteran is suffering from Post-traumatic stress disorder (PTSD). He is terrified and horrified with memories of the 30 years of his military missions but still denies any psychiatric treatment.
Riva’s only escape is a high dosage of drugs that numbs his memories. These haunting scars of the past are so dreadful to Riva that he has pushed away his own family so as to disable himself from hurting them. Though when Riva’s teenage daughter is kidnapped, Riva takes matters into his own hands and chases the kidnapper. The story further explores Riva’s mission to save his daughter while restraining his inner beast to come out. Riva knows that once he loses control, he will become a beast that will destroy everything that comes in his way, and thus it needs to be chained.
Leonida Riva – Nobody’s Son – The Beast
Cinema is in love with Anti-Heroes. It isn’t that cinema celebrates such characters, but flawed protagonists are more life-like and often remind us that everyone is suffering from one thing or another.
Leonida Riva’s character in The Beast (film) could be defined as “a highly unstable war veteran who tends to move towards isolation. He shows a high level of social, psychological and physical disability.” To police officers, Riva is a ticking time bomb that can blast any moment, leading to widespread havoc. It is due to Riva’s external conflict that society tags him as a threat. Riva, on the other hand, is afraid of his past war memories, where a whole squad was killed in a mission to save Riva from the terrorists. Riva feels guilty of each life that was lost in order to rescue him. The scar is so deep that Riva pushes everyone, even his family, with the feeling that he might hurt them too. It is Riva’s internal conflict that underlines his method of saving his own daughter. He goes alone rather than taking help from the police.
This internal conflict plays an important part in shaping Riva’s character. The human mind is a complex entity. It is totally impossible to understand how and why a person suffers. PTSD in Riva’s case came from 30 years in the battlefield. He was so used to that chaos that coming back to society became chaotic to his own brain. Even Riva’s old comrades comment, “Going back to normal life, looked like a nightmare to me.”
Though it isn’t Riva’s internal conflict that dominates, it is his own resistance to take therapy that does more damage. When Riva understands the value of family, relationship, love and compassion, he finally decides to give life another chance and joins the group therapy sessions. His character arc traces Riva’s resistance to finally changing his perception.
Riva’s character in The Beast (film) had huge potential, however, the story in which he is placed has been seen numerous times on screen. Only if the narrative would have been unique, it could have supplemented Riva’s character and created a really thrilling narrative. Additionally, I was really expecting that the monstrous version of Riva’s character would come up on the screen that too never happened. It would have been really exciting to see what would have happened if this ticking time bomb would have gone off.
The Beast (film) is an engaging drama film that keeps your attention engaged. However, it had much more potential, only if such a vibrant character would have been placed in a better narrative. Still, The Beast is a watchable film that never becomes monotonous or repetitive. It is stylishly shot and well made.
The Beast (La Belva film) is streaming on Netflix.
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